THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Monday that 1,200 metric tons (MT) of imported onions have arrived in the Philippines, five days before a Jan. 27 deadline to bring in emergency shipments intended to stabilize prices.

“According to information from the Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI), 400 metric tons of yellow onions and 800 metric tons of red onions have arrived in the country,” Rex C. Estoperez, DA deputy spokesman, told reporters.

Mr. Estoperez said in total, shipments amounting to 5,000 MT are expected to arrive in the country within this week, in time to beat the Jan. 27 deadline.

The DA authorized onion imports of 21,060 MT after wet-market prices hit P400-P600 far exceeding the suggested retail price (SRP) of P250.

The Jan. 27 deadline was set to avoid disrupting the domestic onion harvest, a shipping window which US Department of Agriculture analysts said was too tight.

Mr. Estoperez said that the imported onions will have to be inspected by the BPI before they are distributed to markets.

“As of today, these onions are not in the market yet; they have to be cleared first by the BPI,” Mr. Estoperez said.

He said that the DA is confident that onion prices will fall.

“We have to put a price cap on the imports, but we have to ensure that it is not lower the (domestic) cost of production or else this will hurt our farmers,” Mr. Estoperez said.

He added that the DA is still studying the pricing for the imported onions and is considering P100 to P150 per kilo, against a cost of production estimated at less than P100.

Mr. Estoperez said that the decision to import onions will not hurt farmers. “Before we decided to import, we considered the volume and timing of arrival. The timing of arrival is a very short window until Jan. 27.”  — Ashley Erika O. Jose